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Canada prepares for recreational marijuana sales with patchwork of plans

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Dried cannabis. Photo: Dank Depot/Flickr

Different regions have different plans for the sale of recreational marijuana.

In British Columbia, the provincial Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will handle wholesale distribution and online sale of marijuana. Marijuana will be sold in both public and privately run stores. The minimum age to purchase cannabis would be 19, which is the same as the legal drinking age. Adults in British Columbia will be allowed to grow up to four plants per household, but landlords and strata councils can restrict or prohibit cultivation and smoking in properties.

Vancouver and Victoria have already set up regimes for dispensing marijuana but other municipalities, such as Richmond, will be allowed to reject cannabis shops altogether if so chosen.

In Alberta, cannabis would be sold online through a Government of Alberta website and retailed through privately operated storefront dispensaries. Age limits for purchase and consumption of cannabis would be set at 18, which coincides with the legal drinking age.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) will be in charge of distributing legal cannabis to private retailers in a model similar to how it handles beer, wine and spirits. The AGLC will also be responsible for licensing retailers.

Smoking or vaping cannabis will be prohibited in the same public locations where smoking is banned, including bars and restaurants. Consumption will be banned for school properties, daycares, hospital grounds, and places where children frequent, like pools, playgrounds and sports fields.

In Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority will be in charge of distribution and will issue about 52 retail permits to private operators in roughly 32 municipalities and First Nation communities. Eligible First Nations and municipalities will have the option to opt out of having a retail cannabis store. 

The minimum age for cannabis use will be 19, which is the same as the province's legal drinking age.

The province also announced that each household will be allowed up to four cannabis plants. There is also a limit of 30 grams of cannabis per consumer.

In Manitoba, the Liquor and Gaming Authority (LGA) will regulate the purchase, storage, distribution and retail of cannabis while the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation (MBLL) will secure and track supply of cannabis sold in the province. The private sector will be responsible for retailing the product.

In early December, the government said that the minimum age to buy pot would be 19, a year older than the provincial drinking age of 18.

The public would be able to order pot online through retailers who also have a storefront, but would be barred from growing it at home unless they had a medical licence.

In Ontario, marijuana will only be sold by the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Starting next summer, the OCRC will operate 40 stand-alone marijuana shops, increasing to 150 stores by 200.

Usage will be restricted to private homes and consumption will continue to be outlawed in all parks and other public places as well as in vehicles.

Eligible individuals would be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use.

The minimum age to purchase and possess recreational cannabis in Ontario would be 19.

Ontario will ban the public consumption of marijuana.

In Quebec, the Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQC) will be allowed to purchase cannabis from a producer, ensure its transportation and storage, and sell it, with certain exceptions. The SQC will open 15 physical stores around the province where cannabis products will be sold and will also offer online sales.

The minimum age to purchase and possess recreational cannabis in Quebec could be 18. This might jump to 21.

The legislation would bar people from growing cannabis for personal use at home. Smoking marijuana would only be allowed in the same locations where people are currently allowed to smoke a cigarette.  

In New Brunswick, a Crown corporation and new subsidiary of NB Liquor will set up a network of 20 stand-alone, government-run stores that will be dedicated to selling cannabis.

The stores will be set up in 15 communities across the province.

Online sales will also be allowed, but the details haven't been worked out yet: One option is "click and collect," which would see customers order online but go to a retail store to pick up their cannabis. Another is delivery by trained staff, who check identification at the door.

Under the province's Cannabis Control Act, the minimum age for buying cannabis will be set at 19.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, in line with its minimum drinking age, users will have to be 18 years old to purchase and use cannabis products.

Pot will be sold in approved private stores, with distribution handled by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC). In some areas, though, NLC may be the retailer, too.

Online sales will also be an option.

But wherever people buy it, they're going to be barred from smoking pot on public property.

In Nova Scotia, cannabis will be sold through some, though not all, Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. outlets as well as through online sales. This means that at some locations, a customer can buy cannabis at the same location where they buy alcohol.

The sale of cannabis will initially be restricted to nine stores.

Although the sale of marijuana plants will be permitted when federal government legalizes the drug, it's unclear where in Nova Scotia those seedlings will be sold.

A possession limit of 30 grams per person and a household growing limit of four plants. 

The government has announced the legal age for consumption will be 19 years old.

In P.E.I., cannabis will be sold in four government stores across the Island, as well as online.

The government stores will sell seeds and seedlings in addition to dried cannabis and cannabis oil.

Consumption of cannabis will be limited to private residences and some exceptions for designated spaces.

Adults will be allowed to carry up to 30 grams with them. People will also be allowed to have up to four plants, provided minors don't have access to them.

The legal age for buying cannabis will be 19 years old.

According to the territorial government website, Yukon will, "own and operate at least one retail store and provide an e-commerce option." Cannabis will not be sold where alcohol is also sold.

The Yukon government will alone control the import and distribution of legal marijuana in the territory, and set the legal age for buying, using or growing pot at 19 years of age.

The proposed Yukon legislation aligns with the federal government's plans to cap the possession limit for pot at 30 grams, and limit the number of plants you can grow at home, to four. 

In Northwest Territories (N.W.T.) Adults will be allowed to grow marijuana at home under the proposed plan, but will be limited to four plants.

The N.W.T Liquor Commission will control the importation and distribution of cannabis, whether through retail outlets or by mail-order service run by the liquor commission. The N.W.T. will allow cannabis and liquor to be sold in the same establishment.

In the N.W.T., personal possession will be set at 30 grams "of dried cannabis or its equivalent in a public place."

The minimum legal age at which someone can purchase and consume cannabis is 19 years in the NWT. Adults will be allowed to smoke at home, while public smoking will be prohibited in certain areas to protect others against second-hand smoke.

Communities in the N.W.T. will be able to "hold a plebiscite to prohibit cannabis, similar to the options currently available to restrict alcohol."

The Nunavut government has not yet unveiled its plan or released the results of its survey regarding pot legalization.

Regarding taxation, the public already expected that there would be some form of a sin tax on marijuana products. According to a 2016 report by Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer, initial federal tax revenue from cannabis sales would be around $618 million and then rising to potentially $1 billion.

At first the federal excise tax, or sin tax, was to be a shared 50/50 with the provinces and territories and would not exceed $1 a gram or 10 per cent of the producer's price, whichever is higher. But the provinces and territories lobbied for more of a share of the tax, so it was changed to be 75 per cent share of the tax, with the maximum to be taken by the federal government $100 million per annum, with any excess paid to the provinces and territories.

The idea that tax revenue could be used by the provinces for drug awareness campaigns and drug treatment costs has helped to assuage some concerns from social groups who were wary of drug sales or the impact of the easier access to recreational marijuana will have on society. 

This is the second part of a two-part series on cannabis in Canada. Read part one here.

Photo: Dank Depot/Flickr

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